I’ve been getting hung up this week on how to define the concept of effectiveness. I’ve come to realise that trying to begin any serious analysis of anything in the area of human behaviour with a clear definition is to invite trouble. And procrastination.
So, this is a placeholder that we will revisit. For now, this is what I believe effectiveness to be about in the work context. And how it actually applies to me.
Effectiveness is achieving what you want to achieve, performing as you want to perform, and meeting the expectations of yourself and/or others.
It’s usually (and should be) measurable and I think it fits on a zero to one scale i.e. can be represented by a percentage but that you can’t exceed 100%. Being over-effective sounds odd. Being 120% effective doesn’t make sense. Even achieving a 100% level might be difficult or impossible. If you get there, it’s already been named and it’s called ‘Reaganing’.
It’s dependent on the roles we adopt. And of course, we tend to have multiple roles so we’re somewhat effective in certain areas and less effective in others.
The concept of being an effective person makes me a little uneasy. It sounds judgmental and also a bit limiting. As a person, you can be simultaneously very effective and ineffective depending on context and I’m not sure why anyone but yourself needs to keep an aggregate score. I don’t mean to diminish Covey’s significant contribution to humanity with his 7 Habits material.
The rules of the game are variable. The definition of success and failure can be adjusted to suit the circumstances. Sometimes, we define it ourselves. A lot of the time, it’s decided for us, mostly by employers, parents or customers.
And there’s no absolute scale. You can be very effective in a low-value, low-ambition role but not-so-effective in a challenging and high-impact role and yet the overall contribution to the world might be entirely opposite.
The point about setting the rules of the game is crucial. You can be really effective in a number of roles but yet not be achieving what you need to achieve in an overall sense. Defining and refining our roles is as important as any other aspect of this. To paraphrase the afore-mentioned Covey, what’s the point of successfully climbing the ladder if it’s up against the wrong wall?
So, I think the path ahead is clearer: it’s about understanding what we should be doing and then getting it done in the way that works best for us. Both elements are required.
As for me, a few months back I boiled down my work into four significant roles. (It’s easy to expand these into a dozen or more if you were so inclined.) I’m going to look at these again in the weeks ahead and see if they’re still valid, how effective I am at present and how effective I need to be. That’s when the fun starts.